Book no. 7: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. There is this line, Penguin Popular Classics with paperbacks for only PHP 99, very cool, check it out. I read this towards the end of last month but was too melodramatic to write about it. 😆
What it is: Bold, dark, and mighty witty, The Picture of Dorian Gray is an intriguing read focused on morality. Think about it, what if the moral degradation of one’s soul doesn’t show in the face but is bore by a portrait? I’d like to think I’m not the most sinister character in the world but if I’d see my soul face to face I’ll freak.
The book is very clever and realistic, I can only imagine the shock of people reading it during its time. It has a lot of smart ass things to say about life, love, marriage, women, society, art, and beauty among others; thoughts that are very real but are undermined unfortunately by hypocrisy, it’s truly interesting. It also explores homosexuality, vanity, drug use, faithlessness, and hedonism. I find the high points regarding these topics really fascinating.
What I liked about it: First of all, it is reader friendly. In some classics, this has been my biggest problem, but with The Picture of Dorian Gray, I found the narration simple, breezy, and with a nice pace too. The characters are relatable and the transformation of Dorian Gray from a sweet school boy into a man of the world is striking; add the contrast of his beautiful face to his deeds and he truly becomes a very curious character. Lord Henry is a powerful character and in life I believe we meet people like him, which may be both fortunate and unfortunate. Such characters move people with their influence; it can be scary but it’s amazing at the same time.
The tragedies, I love the tragedies inside The Picture of Dorian Gray. I adore the poetry of the life and death of Sibyl Vane, the romance and heartbreak of Dorian Gray’s mother, the rise and fall of Basil Hallward, and the beautiful decomposition of Dorian Gray himself. Like I mentioned, tragedies in books are a thing of beauty. It lingers. It has a huge impact.
The open-mindedness of the book is something I appreciate too. When it comes to morality, the perspective of The Picture of Dorian Gray is simple. There is no right or wrong but only what is. I enjoyed the bits when it lashes out at society not only for putting barriers to self-actualization but for being hypocritical and going against nature. While I’m far from a hedonist, I recognize how limiting societies and cultures can be, not entirely because of propriety but because of fear, which is pathetic.
But what I liked most is the moral tension in the story. There is a constant push and pull about whether or not to judge Dorian Gray and his actions. How much will you understand? How open will you be to the concepts presented in the book? What is right and what is wrong? When is a man free to follow his pleasures? How powerful is society in terms of imposing restraints on behavior? What is acceptable and what is not? There are so many moral dilemmas that challenges readers within The Picture of Dorian Gray. It’s very smart this way and reveals a lot about the reader than the story.
What I did not like about it: The part where James Vane hunt Dorian Gray is pretty lame to me, more so how that hunt ended. It is almost ridiculous. The ending of the story didn’t quite impress me but I can’t think of any other way to end it so I guess it’s okay.
Recommended for: If you like to think, weigh behavior, and is interested in morals, this is a good book. Readers who like tragedies, and classics should see The Picture of Dorian Gray too.